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Claflin University kicked off the new school year with its 148th Matriculation Day ceremony Thursday morning as President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale welcomed students, faculty and staff back to campus.

“Coming together is a great thing. It’s one of the great traditions at Claflin University,” Tisdale said. “It’s one way we communicate, and it’s also a way of being supportive of one another.”

Expressing concern and support for victims of Hurricane Harvey and those preparing for Hurricane Irma, he recalled previous ceremonies at momentous occasions.

In 2005, those at Matriculation Day remembered those affected by Hurricane Katrina. And on Sept. 11, 2001, those preparing for the ceremony watched their televisions in horror as two planes hit the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

“But we still came together, and we still had Matriculation Day because that is what we do,” Tisdale said.

“And this morning, we know that there are many who are being impacted, facing issues of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, and we too join many on the east coast who are preparing for Hurricane Irma,” he said, pausing the ceremony for a silent prayer.

Welcoming back all students, Tisdale said, “Matriculation Day provides us with an opportunity to come together as a Claflin University family and community to celebrate our traditions and to celebrate our successes.

“And it’s also a chance to share our vision and chart our course for the new academic year,” he said.

Tisdale looked back 148 years to the birth of Claflin, “a beacon of light on a hilltop high.”

“We are then a part of a noble experiment,” he said.

Tisdale noted that this year’s freshman class and total enrollment are at all-time highs, with 524 freshmen and more than 2,100 students overall.

Also at a record high is Claflin’s retention rate, with 80 percent of last year’s freshmen returning for their sophomore year, he said.

“We believe that it’s very important that you not only arrive here, but you continue,” he said. “As I said to the freshmen a few weeks ago, I’d like to have the honor of handing you that diploma three or four years down the road.”

Contact the writer: chuff@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5543.

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